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October 22, 2012

Microsoft's New Privacy Policy Could Lead to User Data Being Used in Targeted Advertising, Consumer Advocates Claim

Microsoft (News - Alert) has come up with a new privacy policy that raises some concern among consumer advocates.

Although the changes to the private policy have not led to the kind of outcry that arose after Google’s (News - Alert) new privacy policy was enacted in March – there are scattered issues being debated.

For instance, Consumer Watchdog’s John M. Simpson confirmed in a UPI report that Microsoft said in its e-mails and blog posts “it won't use the information in targeted advertising.” But the Services Agreement does not” make such a promise, he added.

"What Microsoft is doing is no different from what Google did," Simpson was quoted by UPI. "It allows the combination of data across services in ways a user wouldn't reasonably expect. Microsoft wants to be able to compile massive digital dossiers about users of its services and monetize them."

The company doesn’t plan to sell data for targeted advertising, Jack Evans, a Microsoft spokesman, said in news reports. Instead, the company says the information will be used to improve services, such as offering new products or upgrading spam filters.

The Microsoft Services Agreement lets the company collect and analyze customer content on its e-mail, instant messaging and search, according to The New York Times.

The Times adds that “Microsoft’s policy changes are much the same as those that Google made to its privacy rules this year.”

The Times also contends that the changes in the policy by Microsoft do allow data to be used for targeted advertising – even if the company says in statements it won’t let it happen.

In addition, the updates services agreement affects only free, Web-based products from Microsoft, not company software programs, The Times said.

In August, Microsoft informed Hotmail users about the policy changes. It also told many of its customers – who use its online products and services (such as e-mail) – that it added a class action waiver and binding arbitration clause to its customer service agreement, TechZone360 said.

Customers will find it much harder to sue the company now.

In a related matter, last week European regulators told Google that it can either fix its new privacy policy or face possible fines within a few months, TechZone360 said. France’s CNIL – which took the lead in the EU inquiry on the policy – claimed that Google's new privacy policy has “incomplete information and uncontrolled combination of data across services.”

The findings follow several months of study of the Google policy – led by the CNIL.

Edited by Braden Becker

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